Call No Man Your Father

Matthew 23:9 says, "Call no your father upon the earth, for one is your Father, which is in Heaven." Also, John 8:41 says that "we have one Father, even God."

This tells me that I should call no human being on the face of the earth, Father. But all good Roman Catholics do.

I assume that at some point you (and every other person on the face of this earth) called their male parent "father" or something similar. If we are to take the sentence literally, we may never refer to our male parent as "father", or even "dad", "daddy", etc. (these are all ways we have of referring to our biological male parent).

A closer look at the context of Matthew 23:9 reveals something else, though. The passage reads (from the RSV): But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ.

If we are to take this literally, we may never call a person "teacher". Extending this, we may never call a person "doctor," because it comes from the Latin word for "teacher." We may never use the honorifics "Mister," "Miss," or "Missus" (I’m assuming that’s how you spell it – I’ve never actually spelled the word out before!) because they are colloquialized forms of the honorific "master." If we are to take this passage literally, there are many good protestants who are just as guilty as good Catholics. 🙂

I think that Jesus was speaking in hyperbole – he was exaggerating to prove a point. The passage you cite is in the context of Jesus telling his disciples not to act as the Pharisees do – hoarding honor, demanding respect and reverence, putting down all others because they think they’re better then everyone else because they are the "pure" ones, the ones who know how to act and how to pray and who have the inside track to God.

In this context there’s many, many people, Catholic or not, Christian or not, who are spiritual Pharisees . . . but to pull that one verse and say Catholics shouldn’t call priests "Father" . . . well . . . seems a bit much (unless we drop all of the other titles as well – master & teacher).

Blessings & Peace,